NASA chose to destroy the spacecraft before it lost its control from Earth and thus avoid a possible collision with one of the moons that could compromise future research.
The Cassini spacecraft, after exhausting almost all its fuel, entered this Friday at 7:57 am (local time in Washington) in the atmosphere of Saturn, where it ended up disintegrating, as planned, reported today the US Space Agency (NASA).
This ended the Cassini-Huygens mission, which over the last 20 years has compiled data as important as the possible habitability of two of the moons of Saturn, Enceladus, and Titan.
It is precisely this finding that led NASA to make the decision to make way for the ‘Grand Finale’ phase, with the purpose of destroying the ship before it lost its control from Earth and avoid a possible collision with any of the aforementioned moons that might compromise future research.
“Our spacecraft has entered Saturn’s atmosphere and received its latest transmission,” NASA said on Twitter.
Launched on October 15, 1997, alongside the Huygens probe, which became the first man-made artifact to land on a moon from another planet, Cassini has compiled such amount of data during its mission that experts estimate it will take decades to fully analyze them.
Since the Cassini spacecraft entered Saturn’s orbit on June 30, 2004, NASA extended its mission twice, until its fuel became scarce, and the project managers had to deal with the various options.
NASA finally chose to destroy the spacecraft both to preserve the conditions of the Enceladus and Titan moons and to take advantage of the unique opportunity to obtain data on the probe’s descent to the surface of Saturn, information that would have been impossible to achieve another way.
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